What Past Recipients Say

Valarie Meyer

2023 SIC Initial

I am immensely grateful for the training experience I received through the CABAA and Flight Safety International SIC scholarship on the Citation Excel. Throughout my training, I was continuously supported by several dedicated members of CABAA. Their assistance was invaluable. From lending me training materials and gifting me an iPad, to expertly answering all my questions, the members of CABAA have been there for me every step of the way. I want to give a special thanks to Mr. Zankowski, Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Kowalski, and Mrs. Rosinsky for their unwavering support. Additionally, the instructors at Flight Safety were exceptional and committed to providing an outstanding educational experience. Thanks to the generosity of CABAA, I now have the incredible opportunity to serve as a Second-in-Command on the Citation Excel/XLS. As I search for my first position in business aviation, I am excited about the future and eagerly look forward to the journey ahead.

Kevin Whelan

2016 Financial, 2017 Financial, 2018 Financial, 2019 Pilot Training

The CABAA scholarships I received have been immensely helpful as I pursue a career in business aviation. I have been able to further my education and professional skillset thanks to the support I have received from CABAA. Additionally, I have been provided with networking, mentorship, and professional development opportunities as a CABAA member. I have been able to learn a lot about business aviation from the connections I have made. All things considered, CABAA has been invaluable in assisting me as I pursue my dream career.

Alex Kwiatkowski

2014 Financial, 2016 SIC Initial

When Alex began flight training, he was not aware of the many opportunities available in business and corporate aviation. He says, Thankfully, I had several mentors who encouraged me to explore the world of business aviation, and I began attending every CABAA event that I could. I found a part-time position with a local flight school and Part 135 operator to learn as much as possible about business aviation career paths.” Along the way, he also learned about the CABAA scholarships and started the application process. In his junior year of college, Alex was selected for a CABAA financial scholarship, which gave him, he says, “a sense of validation that I was on the correct path to a professional career in business aviation.” The following year, he won the CABAA Professional Pilot Training Award and adds, “I was, and still am, incredibly grateful for the opportunity to use the Professional Training Award and for the doors that would open because of that experience.” Alex used the first scholarship for flight training for his commercial pilot certificate and CFI rating. The CABAA Professional Pilot Training Award was used for training on the Citation 650, the airplane which he currently flies, and well as for his ATP certificate. CABAA has become an integral part of Alex’s life. In addition to the many doors that were open to him, including his first corporate pilot position, Alex has served on CABAA’s Scholarship and Mentoring Committee, and has served as one of the scholarship chairs on the committee this year. He says, “CABAA has impacted my life in an incredible way. CABAA has helped me develop as aviation professional, and I look forward to continuing a career in business and corporate aviation. I hope to continue to reach out to students, just as my mentors did, and show them the amazing opportunity that lies ahead.

Mickael Ashworth

2017 Financial, 2018 Financial

Mickael learned about CABAA and CABAA scholarships at a career fair at her school, Lewis University. She was urged to apply and says, I decided to try and ended up winning a scholarship two years in a row.” She used the scholarships to complete her commercial certificate and to earn her CFI rating last summer. She says, “Receiving the money allowed me to enjoy my career more. I love teaching people so getting my CFI made flying even more enjoyable as I could share my knowledge and help others.” When Mickael received the phone call from CABAA telling her she’d won a scholarship, she said, “I was so happy and had more faith in myself. I knew I could do it because others had faith in me, too.” Winning the scholarships significantly lightened her workload as a student. The scholarships meant she could focus on school and not worry about maintaining school and flight training plus a job. She adds, “Having the ability to do this allowed me to go through school and flight training faster, allowing me to graduate a year early.” When CABAA showed her by awarding her the scholarship that the organization believed in her career plans, she says that made it easier for her to believe in herself and that she had chosen the right career path. When she looks into the future and where her career might take her, Mickael sees herself working for a corporate flight department, flying and creating a bond with her passengers. Just as with her flight instructing and her desire to help her students and share her knowledge, Mickael says, “I love helping others and corporate flying gives me that opportunity to bond with the people I am flying and make sure they have the best trip.

Steven Kowalski


For Steve Kowalski, the benefits of winning a CABAA scholarship went way beyond the financial impact for training. He had applied for a scholarship because his flight instructor Brian Zankowski, was awarded the same scholarship in the previous year; he alerted Steve to apply for the available scholarships. Steve’s interest in business aviation goes way back. He says, “Ever since hearing about what business aviation has to offer, I became very interested in pursuing a career in it.” He says he realized that having a SIC [second-in-command] type rating would open doors for him that otherwise would be closed. He applied for a scholarship and won. His reaction? I felt as if I won the lottery when I got the news,” he says. He adds that winning the CABAA scholarship validated the very hard work he’d done in college. After he graduated from college, Steve was offered a job flying with a Part 135 operator out of DuPage. He says, “I initially only flew the CJ with them, but with the Citation 500 training, I quickly upgraded to the Citation V. Since I also received simulator training, I as able to fly with operators on a contract basis who required 12-month simulator training.” Since many operators require 12-month simulator currency, the CABAA scholarship opened a career door for Steve. He says, “I wouldn't have ever gotten this opportunity without this training. Further down the road, the type rating helped with future jobs since it proved I can pass simulator school, helping calm the fears of employers that a rookie pilot can pass type rating school.” But the rewards weren’t simply a career boost. Steve says, Emotionally, winning the scholarship gave me a huge increase in confidence. It was a pat on the back saying, ‘Hey, you're on the right path; keep your eye on the prize and keep on pushing for success.’Being a corporate pilot is the career for Steve. In sum, he says, I really enjoy flying business jets now and look to continue flying them in the future.

Cecil Barbato

2011, 2012, 2013

Cecil Babato has won not one, not two, but three CABAA scholarships, and he credits his involvement with CABAA with both shaping his career and as well as making it possible. His first scholarship came at the end of his freshman year in college. He had applied for the scholarship for purely financial reasons, but soon learned being a CBAA scholarship winner provided way more than financial benefits. He says, “When I attended the annual CABAA Golf Outing to receive the scholarship, I was blown away by the people in attendance. It seemed as though business cards just fell from the heavens and, though I was woefully underqualified to even think about applying to work with any of the flight departments represented, the networking this opportunity provided was paramount.” It turned out that many of the people he met that first year became his mentors, friends, and role models. He became determined to win another scholarship, and another, so that he would be included again in the golf outing. All three scholarships were put toward flight training – his private pilot certificate as well as the bulk of his commercial certificate and flight instructor rating. The type-rating scholarship, sponsored by Flight Safety International actually landed Cecil his first job in business aviation. Cecil says, “Career wise, I am right where I want to, and need to be. I am flying the aircraft that was the poster on my dorm room wall in college, the Gulfstream G550/G450, and I get to share the cockpit with an absolutely fantastic pilot group.” His goal for the next decade is to gain as much flying experience as possible especially with regard to international flying. As for the long-term future, he says, “My goal is to close the experience gap as fast as possible as our workforce continues to age. The best thing I can do for myself and for business aviation is to keep flying and pay it forward.”

Whitcliffe Roberts


Whitcliffe has volunteered for the CABAA Safety Day Event starting with his sophomore year at Lewis University. He says, “I had many opportunities to meet with the professionals as a part of the organization. Carl Robst, and Marc Pozdol had been alumni of Lewis who were doing exactly what I dreamed to one day.” Both had been mechanics who wanted to fly, and that was the path Whitcliffe wanted to follow. Whitcliffe saw the CABAA scholarship as a path to where he wanted to be. When he won, he says, “To be honest, I felt relief, because of how long I had been hoping for the opportunity and I also felt gratitude because it was a step towards something I loved, from an organization I cared about.” He immediately put the scholarship toward his flight training. Whitcliffe says, “Although I had a part time job, while working on my undergrad degree, I was unable to pay for my flight training, and was consistently saving up to pay off loans and help my family with whatever I could.” With the financial help from the maintenance scholarship, he was able to pick up his flight training and get more than halfway finished with his Private Pilot certificate with additional funds used towards finishing his A&P. The scholarship served to take some pressure off relying on his family for support. He says, “My family is everything to me – especially my mom who sacrifices so much for me so that I can follow my dreams.” He knows his mother does not see what she does as sacrifice, and adds, “Anything I could do to pay her back for her immense love and encouragement would only be the tip of the iceberg of gratitude I have for her. This scholarship has put me on the right path to reaching my goals and doing whatever I can to make sure that she is well taken care of.” In the future, Whitcliffe sees himself working as a mechanic while continuing his flight training with the dream of flying professionally. He concludes, “While I am doing that, I hope to be taking care of my family to make sure they are as comfortable as I am successful.”

Joshua O'Keefe


The CABAA network was in operation when Josh applied for a CABAA scholarship. He was told about the scholarship through his flight instructor Alex Kwiatkowski, who was a previous scholarship winner. Josh says, “I was in financial need to help cover the costs of flight training, and my flight instructor told me how much the CABAA scholarship had helped him.” He says he was “very surprised” when informed he was a scholarship winner and says, “I knew there were many other qualified applicants, so when I received the news that I had won it was very surreal.” He used the scholarship money to help pay off student debt for his flight training and applied the remainder to fund his Commercial certificate and multiengine rating. Josh says, “This scholarship came at a time where I was basically out of funds for flight training, so I immediately began my multiengine training.” Josh knows that having a multiengine rating made him much more marketable in his aviation career. He adds, “Only a few months after receiving the rating, I began applying for jobs and received an offer for employment as soon as I graduated.” The job was flying a Lear 75 for a corporate management company. He says, “Obtaining that job allowed me to build the flight hours and experience needed to join the airlines side of aviation, and I am a newly hired First Officer with Envoy Air, and just completed my ATP/Type Rating checkride.” Besides making him marketable and giving him a big career boost, Josh says winning the scholarship showed him that aviation people generally care about one another and want to see others in the field succeed. He says, “If it were not for the scholarship, I am not sure if I would have been able to complete my flight training and graduate on time from Lewis University.” His future plan is to upgrade to captain at Envoy within two years. He hopes to continue regional flying – and maybe try international flying in the near future. Whatever the future holds, Josh says, “If I find that the airlines do not suit me, there are so many different avenues in aviation I can go through, with vastly different lifestyles and schedules, so I will always keep my options open.”

Josh Hernandez

2011 Monetary , 2019 CAE Pilot Training

The CABAA scholarship was the first scholarship Josh ever applied for, and he won. He used the money to pay for his private pilot flight training at Quincy University. He had learned of the scholarship through his mentor, Steve Whitney, who was a CABAA member at the time Josh applied. Josh says, “When I got the news that I won, I was really excited. I saw it as free money to help me do something I love doing.” But like other CABAA scholarship winners, as nice as the money was to him, a highlight was being invited to CABAA’s annual golf outing. As he recalls, “Being in the same place with all the movers and shakers of the Chicago business aviation community was a huge honor.” At the event, he was able to meet other scholarship winners and network with business aviation professionals in a relaxed setting. In short, he says, “A great introduction to what my future would be like.” Since many universities do not include actual in-airplane flight instruction as part of a financial aid package, Josh’s CABAA scholarship went a long way to defray those costs of his private pilot training. He says, “A healthy portion of the flight lab fees were take care of, and it was an absolute life saver.” Josh says that winning a scholarship is extremely motivating. He says, “It meant that I was doing something right and I was on the right path. It told me that this group of professionals believed in me and that they wanted to invest in my future so that I could be great. It made me feel supported.” As for the future, Josh sees himself as a captain on multiple large cabin business jets working for a Fortune 50-500 company as well as the director of operations for a large company or a charter operation of his own. He says, “I definitely see myself becoming a well-known contributing member of the business aviation community and it is my vision to ultimately help spark the passion for business aviation in the next generation of young aviators.”

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